I had never seen people more surprised to see me, but we had found their spot right at nightfall. Well, we didn’t find it, the ranger we ran into earlier told us where it was. To be honest I still have a suspicion that the ranger set that up in order to annoy the hunters, but I have no proof of that. They weren’t pissed, but they weren’t stoked on us being there either. However, something caught their eye… that being two 12-packs of cheap beer we originally intended to drink at the lake.
They couldn’t believe we hauled all that beer up the mountain and we had their respect at that point. We made it clear that we didn’t give a shit about their hunting (they had encountered plenty of opposition in the past) and we all had a drink together. We drank at their camp, which was complete with horses and a pack mule. They had a large canvas tent with a wood stove as well. They were able to pack in quite a bit of shit, but did still need to be weight conscious. I was so tired I drank one beer and went to sleep. The next day/night were a different story of course. You can’t just carry all that beer back down 🙂
Honestly, in the past I’ve had a low opinion of hunters. I’d made the erroneous assumption that most were trophy hunters or hunters hunting for “sport”. For me the operating definition being that they were simply shooting animals for the fuck of it-just to kill them. A lot of other folks make this assumption as well, to the point that they’ve been in confrontations with people on the trail. I think that trophy hunters, e.g. people that hunt just for a head to put on a wall, are of the highest order of pussies. I have no respect for people like Jimmy John Liautaud and Donald Trump’s bitch-ass sons chasing an image of masculinity that only reveals true cowardice. Endangered or not, if you kill an animal for no reason other than to say you did, and leave it to become maggot food, you’re nothing but a pussy.
What I learned was that these hunters were not pussies. Not even close. These guys have a very short season to hunt deer in this part of Oregon. IF they bag a deer, they butcher it immediately and pack out the meat. They take it home and freeze it, eating on it all winter. Your meat doesn’t get any healthier that that. You don’t often get to eat meat from a healthy environment. It doesn’t get any more fucking organic and free range than that. Instead of eating garbage meat from the grocery store, these fellas come here and get their own.
It struck me that the very people that romanticize organic, free-range, grass-fed meat judge those who take the initiative to go get it themselves. This is another front on the republican vs democrat, Portland vs Rural Oregon divide. However, we have much more in common in some respects than we think.
While I had these guys pegged as Tea-Party, gun stroking types, they probably made plenty of assumptions about us as well. Wisely, none of us brought up politics. We knew we differed. We just talked about the outdoors and gear, where we have much more in common. The biggest difference is that they happen to bring some fresh food OUT of the wilderness. We talked at length about ultralight gear, which clearly has advantages for both camps. We learned about how common STD’s are on the PCT. More importantly, they taught us about mixing vodka with crystal light (certainly more ultralight than packing in a case of beer).
In the end I was happy to have had my assumptions and stereotypes challenged and I’m sure it was nice for them to run into some liberals that didn’t give them shit about what they were doing. My feelings about hunting and guns are more nuanced and informed. It reminded me of how people interacted before everything became so god damn polarized.
So next time you encounter some hunters, remember they’re out there for very similar reasons. You might not like their guns, but they aren’t the ones shooting up movie theaters and malls. You might not like the fact that they’re hunting, but look at your own meat consumption habits before judging. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, whats worse… these guys bagging a couple of deer to eat or the cruelty of factory farming? More importantly, we need them on our team to fight for the preservation of wilderness and public lands throughout the West and the rest of the US. This can be the perfect example of how working and middle class republicans and democrats can work together against interests that threaten to destroy public lands and our access to them.